NEW YORK – CC Sabathia hopes the final pitch he threw in the third inning of Friday’s 8-2 loss to Oakland won’t be his last in pinstripes.
Once again, Sabathia’s balky right knee flared up to the point that he could not continue after just three frames, leaving Sabathia, who is set to retire after the Yankees’ season ends, is in a race against the clock.
The plan is to have Sabathia’s knee drained and receive a cortisone shot on Saturday, and then the 39-year-old will have roughly a month to be ready for the postseason.
The Yankees will surely try to give Sabathia every chance to prove he’s healthy, but if that knee isn’t right, and with diminished stuff, it could be a tall task.
“I’m not worried about it,” Sabathia said regarding the Yankees having just 26 games left. “I’m going to wait until I’m healthy, and whenever that is, it is what it is.”
Sabathia’s right knee, which has been surgically repaired, has given him problems throughout the season, twice forcing him to the disabled list.
It’s a testament to the southpaw’s toughness that he’s pushed through the pain to make 20 starts albeit with a 4.93 ERA.
Sabathia said the pain was a 10 out of 10 Wednesday night, and in his final inning he “felt a lot of pain.” He allowed one run on one hit.
Sabathia missed roughly three weeks the last time he experienced right knee inflammation, and a similar timetable would have him sidelined late into September.
If Sabathia encountered any setbacks, that could make it even harder for him to get on a mound and pitching meaningful innings before the season returns.
“I hope so. That’s the plan,” Sabathia said of returning. “Hopefully I can get enough rest where it will calm down and I can get back out and throw 90-100 pitches.”
Even if Sabathia returns, he’s going to have to show that he’s past his knee issues and can contribute in the postseason.
The Yankees already have a lack of starting pitching and seem likely to load up on arms, including the possibility of using an opener in the ALDS.
Sabathia has struggled against righties, and lefties owned a .749 OPS against him entering Friday’s game. He does not profile as a lefty-on-lefty reliever .
It could be a risk for the Yankees to carry Sabathia, who may be coming off an injury, instead of a healthier and more effective reliever.
Sabathia has certainly earned a shot at being on the roster, and it would seem unlikely the Yankees would prevent a healthy Sabathia from being on the roster, but he’s going to have to show that he’s a viable option.
The Yankees already have to make a call on fellow southpaw J.A. Happ, who potentially has pitched his way off the postseason roster.
“It’s frustrating for sure because I still feel I can get outs and help the team,” Sabathia said after a 48-pitch outing. “That’s the hardest part is not being out there, and when I am out there, I’m not performing. It’s frustrating.”
Sabathia has produced a career that could land him in Cooperstown and considering he came back for one final season, the storybook ending would have him suiting up and helping the Yankees in October.
Baseball can be a cruel game, though, and Friday showcased that with a dejected Sabathia having to answer questions about whether he will return this year.
That final pitch Sabathia threw Friday induced a groundout to second base from Mark Canha, and now the race is on to beat the clock, and allow a Yankee legend one final October and a shot at a second championship.
“I know he will [return],” Yankees first baseman Luke Voit said. “The guy has been through a lot, but it’s his last year and I’m sure he’s going to do whatever it takes.”
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